2011 Tirreno-Adriatico, Stage 2
2011 Tirreno-Adriatico, Stage 2

INDICATORE, Italy (VN) — As he sat astride his top tube Thursday morning on the marble bricks of Piazza Alberica in Carrara, Italy, Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo) said that Tirreno-Adriatico was “quite important” to him. America’s top sprinter opened the seven-day race across Italy yesterday when most of his squad’s classics roster rode to a second-place result in the opening team time trial. They did one better Thursday, delivering Farrar to his second career win in the “race of the two seas.”

“My season always starts with the first Belgian weekend, but this is the first big race of the year for me,” Farrar told VeloNews. “I always take it seriously; a result is really important.”

The starter’s whistle blew and Farrar pulled his helmet on and rolled out of the plaza. That result came just under five hours later when Farrar stormed up the right lane of the finish straight in Indicatore and held off a charging Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) for his second official win of the season.

He said afterward that the Italian races suit him well and he enjoys them. That makes sense.

Farrar had his breakthrough at Tirreno in 2009, topping Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) for the first time in a heads up sprint. Back then, the mohawked American was a freelancer, making use of his rivals’ lead-outs however he could. The Tirreno win brought a dedicated lead-out man in Julian Dean and stage wins at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España have earned him the driver’s seat on one of the most potent trains in the sport.

“You know, two or three years ago I was bopping around, trying to run the sprints by myself and then as it progressed just Julian and me, bopping around, trying to play off the other teams,” he said. “You can see the way things have changed. Now we’re one of the strongest sprint teams in the world. It’s been a big progression for myself and the team.”

The most audacious sight in the finale Thursday was not an aggressive move by Saxo Bank just over 1km out to take over on the front of the bunch. Nor was it Petacchi’s late surge across the left side of the road to nearly pip Farrar. The most striking image of the closing meters was the rainbow jersey of world champion Thor Hushovd leading out the 27-year-old from Wenatchee, Washington.

“It was a little crazy, to be honest,” said Farrar. “This is the first time Thor and I have raced together and I would say it was a pretty amazing lead-out, so I have to say a big thank you to him tonight.”

With the win, Farrar assumed control of two jerseys of his own – the blue of the overall leader and the red of the points leader. With the mountains on tap for Saturday, he said before the stage that his opportunities would end after Friday’s 189km, mostly flat contest. Still, two 240km days await Farrar as he prepares for the first monument of the season, Milan-San Remo, on March 19.

Any sprinter on the podium at Tirreno becomes a top favorite for la Primavera and in the post-race press conference Farrar faced more questions about it than Tirreno. He answered politely and said he hoped to improve his bad luck at San Remo.

“It’s the first monument of the season and has a lot of history,” said Farrar. “We have a few cards to play. When I’m on form, it suits my characteristics, but it suits Thor and (Heinrich) Haussler as well.”

Before he gets to Milan, Farrar has a pair of jerseys to defend in Friday’s stage to Perugia. Six hours after that conversation in the plaza, the overnight leader of the single biggest indicator race for San Remo acknowledged that fact and politely nodded his way out of the press room.